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Ignorance Begets Confidence: Why Students Overestimate Job Readiness

Are students prepared to transition from college to the world of work?

It depends who you ask.

A recent survey by Chegg and Harris Interactive asked students to rate their proficiency in soft skills such as leadership, communication and organization and then compared their responses to hiring managers who have interviewed recent graduates.

When it comes to organization, nearly 80 percent of current college students say they are either "very" or "completely" proficient. Only 54 percent of hiring professionals agreed. Similar perception gaps appeared when respondents rated other critical workplace skills as well. 

What's the Big Idea?

The Dunning-Krueger Effect describes how people are not very good at measuring their own competence. In fact, the least skilled are often the ones who are the least aware of their shortcomings. So why does ignorance beget confidence, as the saying goes?

Skills require practice. The more practice you put in, the more familiar you are with the challenges required, and then the better you are at predicting your competence level. The Harris survey suggests that students are overestimating their abilities because they simply have not been exposed to the types of challenges that are present in the world of work.

Students might be used to succeeding in school, but that does not mean that this success is transferable to the world of work. And yet, students nonetheless appear to have a positive bias when it comes to predicting their level of preparedness. The first step toward closing the gap in perceived competence is to recognize this bias. 

What's the Next Step?

One thing is clear: if you want to succeed today, you need to take ownership of your own education. And education need to be an ongoing, lifelong pursuit. The half-life of a skill, in today's rapidly changing world, is said to be 5 years, when it used to be 30. As the nature of work changes, you need to understand its nuances. 

That is not to let our education system off the hook. And that is also not to say that organizations should get a pass, either. In fact, the organizations that are best able to institute a model of scalable learning, argues innovation expert John Seely Brown, are the organizations that will succeed in the future.

For videos from John Seely Brown and other experts designed to help you get the skills you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world, please visit Big Think Edge.

Watch the video below and sign up for your free trial to Big Think Edge today. 

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